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Inovio Defies Market-Wide Weakness: What's Behind The Rally?

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Inovio Defies Market-Wide Weakness: What's Behind The Rally?

Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ: INO) shares have been seeing strong momentum ever since hitting a near-term low of $8.78 on Sept. 4.

Inovio Weathers Market Downturn: Inovio's stock rose as high as $18.55 Wednesday before pulling back slightly in the next session. Reversing course, Inovio rebounded Friday to settle the session at $17, a gain of about 94% from the Sept. 4 low.

The momentum is continuing in Monday's session, with the stock holding up despite the major averages plunging by about 2% and across-the-board weakness seen among shares of coronavirus vaccine developers.

The strength comes despite the odds that are by the Plymouth, Pennsylvania-based company.

Inovio's DNA Vaccine Play: Moderna Inc (NASDAQ: MRNA), Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE)/BioNTech SE – ADR (NASDAQ: BNTX) and AstraZeneca plc (NYSE: AZN) arguably have the finish line in sight for a coronavirus vaccine. 

Inovio is developing a DNA vaccine codenamed INO-4800, as opposed to Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, both of which are working on mRNA vaccines.

The Phase 1 study of INO-4800 commenced in early April and evaluated 40 healthy volunteers ages 18-50 who were given either a 1mg dose or 2mg dose at week zero and a second dose at week four. 

The interim efficacy and safety data were encouraging. The company also reported positive results from non-human primate animal challenge studies.

INO-4800 has been evaluated in a Phase 1/2a study in South Korea since June.

Inovio has a September start timeline for a Phase 2/3 efficacy study in the U.S.

A study protocol is being developed to assess efficacy in high-risk population, according to the company. 

Possible Near-Term Inovio Catalyst Ahead: Strength in Inovio's shares could be due to anticipation building around a potential announcement from the company with regard to the mid-to-late-stage coronavirus trials.

CEO Joseph Kim is set to present at the Oppenheimer Fall Healthcare Life Sciences & MedTech Summit at 10:50 a.m. Wednesday. 

The last time Kim made a public presentation, the stock soared about 64% over two sessions.

Rising Inovio Short Interest: Short interest in the stock is rising, with the number of shorted shares increasing from 38.4 million at the end of July to 51.82 million at the end of August, according to the Yahoo database.

About 31.58% of the float has been sold short.

This reflects a bearish disposition among traders and also portends the risk of short squeeze in the event of positive catalysts.

The short ratio is a not-so-elevated 3.3 days, given the huge average trading volume.

Benzinga's Take: Given the volatility associated with the stock and Inovio's unproven pipeline, caution might be the watchword unless traders are interested in capitalizing on wild stock swings.

At last check, Inovio shares were adding 3.82% to $17.65.

Related Links:

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